How Caffeine Can Affect Your Sex LifeJune 3, 2021
There are a host of natural aphrodisiacs that men and women have been using for centuries to improve sexual function, or at least to try.
Oysters and chocolate are some of the most popular examples of foods that may have the ability to improve sexual desire. While these natural options could help to boost sexual desire, the research isn't 100% clear on the benefit, and they do very little to treat sexual dysfunctions.
Issues like erectile dysfunction are best treated with lifestyle and health changes or prescription ED medications. By improving blood flow, these medications help to create firmer erections that are easier to maintain.
This effect is actually similar to the way caffeine affects the body.
So, is it possible for caffeine to improve erectile dysfunction symptoms, or sexual function in general?
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Most commonly the result of blood flow issues, erectile dysfunction is a condition in which men have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. In order for an erection to occur, a complicated process must be completed without interruption: sexual arousal and stimulation release chemicals that relax the muscles of the penis and expand the blood vessels, leading to an increased volume of blood flowing to the penis.
While it may sound simple, there are many factors involved for this physiological process to be successful. Medical conditions relating to the cardiovascular or circulatory systems can have a severe impact on the process, and psychological conditions can be a factor as well.
The best treatment for erectile dysfunction is to address the root cause, but prescription medications are a very common and popular method of treating the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, with great success for most men.
How To Reduce the Risks of Erectile Dysfunction
Even if erectile dysfunction is the result of an underlying medical condition, there are plenty of ways to reduce the frequency and severity of it. Some of these steps include:
- Eating a healthy diet. Reducing sodium and saturated fat in the diet while increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, whole foods, and whole grains can help to control blood pressure and prevent diabetes.
- Eliminating bad habits. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and using various illicit drugs can have a profound impact on health in general, as well as sexual function.
- Get enough exercise. The healthier the heart, the better the blood flow in the body. Even a 30 minute daily walk can be enough to substantially reduce the risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction.
- Reduce stress. Finding ways to maintain quality mental health can have a positive impact on sex drive and reduce the risk of psychological issues impacting the erection process.
What is Caffeine and How Does It Work?
Depending on its use, caffeine can be considered a nutrient or a drug. This naturally occurring stimulant affects the brain and central nervous system, is a part of the methylxanthine class, and is the world’s most commonly consumed psychoactive drug.
The History of Caffeine
Tea and coffee are both common caffeinated beverages that have been enjoyed across the world throughout history. Historical evidence shows that tea has been brewed and consumed as far back as 2700 BC. Eventually, the creation of soda and soft drinks offered new options for caffeinated drinks, and eventually led to the development of today's popular energy drinks.
The Most Popular Drug
As it stands now, roughly 90% of American adults consume some form of caffeine daily, with half of those users consuming more than 300 milligrams. Coffee is the most popular caffeinated beverage with roughly two out of three adults drinking it daily, but soda is not far behind, with a little over half of adults consuming one or more glasses per day.
What Happens to Caffeine in the Body?
When caffeine is ingested, it's quickly broken down by the liver and absorbed into the bloodstream within about 20 minutes, though it may take up to an hour before the full effects are felt.
The most significant impact of caffeine happens in the brain due to its ability to block the effects of adenosine.
Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps to relax the brain and acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. It’s responsible for promoting sleep and makes you feel tired. Every hour that you're awake, your levels of adenosine increase in the brain. Additionally, caffeine can help to increase the levels of adrenaline found in the blood and the activity of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in sleep, alertness, and regulating blood pressure.
What Impact Does Caffeine Have on Sexual Function?
While there have been some studies on the effects that caffeine may have on sexual function, the results are essentially inconclusive. Caffeine certainly does have an impact on the overall bodily functions that contribute to sexual functions, both positively and negatively.
Caffeine’s Positive Effects
Coffee is full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and polyphenols. These elements can help to increase blood flow, relax muscles, expand arteries, and boost the levels of concentrated testosterone in the body — each of which can help to improve overall erectile function in men.
Caffeine’s Negative Effects
Caffeine is also known to severely exacerbate anxiety, which is one of the largest psychological risk factors of erectile dysfunction. Caffeine may also disrupt the adrenal gland, resulting in an increase in cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that reduces the production and effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a steroid hormone that helps to produce testosterone in men and estrogen in women. Low levels of DHEA are commonly associated with an increased risk of erectile dysfunction.
What the Science Says About Caffeine
There have been a few experiments performed involving caffeine and various sexual functions. While the results fail to paint any definitive pictures, there seems to be somewhat of a connection between the two.
According to one experiment performed on rats, caffeine may help improve the overall sex drive and libido of females. When given caffeine, the brain regions associated with arousal in these rats experienced a significant boost in activity. A few important notes about this study that dampen the results, however. The rats in the experiment had never consumed caffeine before, and the dosage was roughly the equivalent of 10 cups of coffee for a human. While it’s true that arousal and sexual stimulation may have significantly improved in these rats, replication in humans might be hard to achieve.
A human study of the effects that caffeine has on men found some interesting results. A little more than 3,700 men participated in this study and were separated into five groups based on their daily caffeine consumption: 0 to 7 milligrams per day, 8 to 84 milligrams per day, 85 to 170 milligrams per day, 171 to 303 milligrams per day, and 304 to 700 milligrams per day.
The study found that the men in the third and fourth quintiles, 85 to 303 milligrams of caffeine a day, had the lowest rates of erectile dysfunction. In fact, even men that were overweight, obese, or diagnosed with high blood pressure — all significant risk factors for erectile dysfunction — were less likely to experience issues if they were in either group of caffeine consumption. The same could not be said for men with diabetes. The study concluded that drinking two to three cups of coffee daily may result in an overall 42% and 39% decrease in the chances of experiencing erectile dysfunction, respectively.
Moderation was key.
While another much larger study involving over 21,000 men and 7,200 with erectile dysfunction, failed to replicate the results of the previous study, it did have some interesting findings of its own. This study found that men who drank four or more cups of decaffeinated coffee daily had a 35% increased risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction.
While this result might be due to the decaffeination process removing the polyphenols and anti-inflammatory agents from coffee, it should be noted that the participants in this category had much higher rates of smoking, higher lipid levels, and higher BMIs than other groups. It’s likely that the increased risk is the result of these factors, and not the decaf coffee.
The Takeaway: Research into the effects that caffeine may have on sexual function are mixed-to-inconclusive. It’s clear that caffeine impacts several physiological functions and systems in the body, but the potential impact on sexual function appears minimal.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase overall energy and blood flow when ingested. For these reasons, it's logical that it might help to boost sexual performance in some ways. However, the research results are inconclusive.
If ED is happening to you on a regular basis, caffeine shouldn't be your go-to solution anyway. Rex MD helps guys access popular prescription ED meds like Viagra and Cialis from the comfort of home and with a board-certified physician's prescription, if appropriate.
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